On Feb. 29, the firm owned by Dallas plaintiffs lawyer Thomas Corea filed a petition in Corea Trial Group, LLC v. CBS Corp., et al., alleging the defendants “cheated” the firm out of calls from prospective clients. The firm further alleges that its representatives expected to receive 100 percent of viewer calls when Corea helped host live call-in TV shows but only received 44 percent. The shows, titled “Ask the Lawyer with Tom Corea,” aired in the second half of 2011 during the noon hour on Channel 21 (KTXA) in Dallas, notes the petition.
Filed in Dallas County Court-at-Law No. 4, the petition names as defendants CBS Corp., CBS Stations Group of Texas, Viacom International and Callsource Inc. According to the petition, “television media sales representatives of the defendants” in the summer of 2011 “pitched” the show idea to Corea. They allegedly asked his firm to pay $2,750 per show, which would allow him to “co-host” the broadcasts, on which viewers would call in or email questions.
The “key attraction and incentive” to the firm to agree to the show and pay the rates was the defendants’ “absolute and unequivocal promise and assurance that 100 percent of the telephone calls generated by the Show would be answered by a live person associated with the Plaintiff.” The firm alleges that such a promise was a “deal breaker” term as far as it was concerned, “due to the absolute requirement to adhere to its professional responsibilities and ethical duties and not engage in any arrangement that could be regarded as any form of solicitation of legal representation (or barratry.)” The firm alleges it made clear it did not want just a list of names and contacts for calls “to not place itself in a position whereby it could be engaging in solicitation of legal representation (or barratry). . . .” Instead, the firm wanted its representatives to know callers were contacting the firm about possible legal representation.
Within a few months after the show began airing, however, the petition alleges only 44 percent of the calls placed to the show were “actually reaching the Plaintiff!” The calls not being transferred directly to the firm resulted in “lost business opportunities,” which the Corea firm estimates in the petition to be valued at $1.4 million in lost revenues.
Subsequently, “with the deliberate and complicit assistance” from Callsource, a company that provides call center assistance and call-logging information, the petition alleges, the defendants “fraudulently represented” that they could not provide tracking data of what calls had come in and what had been transferred. This assertion was “an obvious effort to cover-up” what the defendants had known was “cheating,” the petition states.
The Corea firm cites as causes of action: breach of contract, unjust enrichment, common law fraud and deceit, liability for aiding and abetting, tortious interference with contract, negligent interference, common law civil conspiracy, violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, breach of special relationship and confidence, unfair competition, negligence, and prima facie tort. Corea represents his firm, which seeks damages, exemplary and punitive damages, and attorney fees.
Corea did not return a call immediately. Gil Schwartz, a spokesman for CBS Corp., declines comment. Directory assistance does not have a telephone number for CBS Stations Group at the Austin address listed in the petition. Lori Conrad, the communications director for KTVT and KTXA, which the petition states are operated by CBS Stations Group of Texas and which are not named as defendants, declines comment. Viacom International spokesman Jeremy Zweig declines comment. Roger Browning, a co-founder in the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Glassman, Browning, Saltsman & Jacobs, who represents Callsource, had an assistant return a call to say that he had not yet seen the petition and did not comment further.
-- Miriam Rozen